The Concept of QM2
Queen Mary 2 was announced to the world on June 8, 1999 as “Project Queen Mary”. This announcement was for the design and development of what would become the largest Ocean Liner ever built – and the next step in Ocean Liner evolution.
Cunard’s Norwegian shareholders were informed by Larry Pimentel, the Carnival Corporation appointed President & COO of Cunard (at the time), who said, “The project will lead to development of the heaviest liner ever built – the epitome of elegance, style and grace…It is our objective to build a new generation of ocean liner that will be the very pinnacle of the shipbuilder’s art; the realization of a dream of another time… Our goal is nothing less than to create a new Golden Age of sea travel for those who missed the first,” he said.
Pimentel’s announcement was followed by the first meeting of a new “Project Queen Mary” planning team which met regularly during the design phase of the concept to develop and finalize plans and vessel features. The concept developed into the next evolution of a true ocean liner, picking up where the designers of QE2 had left off over 30 years prior.
QM2’s Early Life
January 12th, 2004 was a historic day for Cunard Line and Great Britain. Queen Mary 2 – the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive passenger ship in history (at that time) departed from Cunard’s home port, Southampton, on her Maiden Voyage.
Fourteen days later, the new Queen arrived to an expected magnificent welcome in Fort Lauderdale, USA. Her inaugural year saw QM2 offer 17 crossings, nine Caribbean cruises, a voyage to Rio and back, five European cruises and two taking in Canada and the East Coast of America. These cruises ranged from four to fourteen days and attracted full passenger lists.
During the 2004 Athens Olympics, QM2 played a central role providing accommodation for athletes families. She was also host to then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and US President Bush. She was also home to the US men’s basketball team. Due to the QM2’s presence, security in Piraeus (Athens’ port) was extremely stringent, with constant guards and scuba divers on call incase of mishap.
During 2005 QM2 was selected to carry the first US (signed) copy of JK Rowling’s book Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in a steamer trunk.
During 2006 QM2 undertook various other cruises and many trans-Atlantic crossings. QM2 began to become an icon in the countries where she had visited. Due to her immense size, she is unable to transit the Panama Canal, and so, during her 2006 circumnavigation of South America she rounded Cape Horn – and successfully repeated this voyage for her 2007 Maiden World Cruise, visiting the East Coast of the US as a result.
A significant moment in QM2’s life was in February 2007 when, during her Maiden World Cruise, she met QE2 in Sydney Harbour. It was the first time since World War II that two Cunard Queen’s had graced that city.
Hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders gathered to watch the two ships meet. A spectacular fireworks display was put on in honour of the meeting. QM2 continued her 2007 season exploring new destinations and maintaining the grand Cunard tradition of the trans-Atlantic service. October 10th, 2008 was a historic day for those aboard QM2 as she sailed out of New York harbour behind the retiring QE2. Many of the QM2’s more experienced crew served aboard QE2 and thus, the final tandem Atlantic crossing was particularly emotional for those members of the ship’s company.
QM2 undertook her second circumnavigation of the globe in 2009. This world cruise was made in conjunction with Queen Victoria – marking the first year (in recent memory) that Cunard’s fleet has been one of the most modern in the world. During her 2009 world cruise she briefly shared a berth with her former sister QE2 at Dubai’s Port Rashid. Throughout the remainder of 2009 the ship enjoyed a busy transatlantic season while undertaking a number of cruises. In October 2009, Queen Mary 2 celebrated her 5th year in service with an 8-night voyage around the British Isles. The voyage included maiden visits to Greenock and Liverpool.
In early 2010 QM2 set out on her third World Cruise once again calling at Dubai and spending the day at close quarters with QE2. This voyage was a partial circumnavigation of the globe, heading Eastbound to Australia and then back to the United Kingdom Westbound via South Africa. In September of 2010, QM2 was left adrift for several hours after a catastrophic failure of a capacitor in the aft harmonic filter room on board RMS Queen Mary 2 while approaching Barcelona. The situation was rectified by the onboard crew.
During 2010 QM2 operated a number of seven-night transatlantic crossings. The extra night was both a response to increasing fuel costs, but also to passenger feedback suggesting that a longer voyage was preferred. The need for QM2’s unique transatlantic capability was highlighted when the Icelandic Volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, had a series of eruptions during 2010. With aircraft grounded across Europe, a significant waiting list developed for QM2.
In 2011 QM2 set sail on her fourth World Cruise. During this voyage the ship’s schedule was interrupted due to the Christchurch Earthquakes, and the Japanese Tsunami. In New Zealand the ship diverted to the unaffected Wellington, while in Japan, QM2 shortened her stay in order to avoid any danger from the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Powerplant.
During November 2011 the ship underwent a refurbishment at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. Here, the vessels port of registration was changed from Southampton (UK) to Hamilton (Bermuda) marking the end of 170 years of British Cunard flagships. Other work undertaken during the refit included a complete redesign of the Golden Lion Pub, as well as the installation of flat screen televisions in all cabins, and miles of new carpeting installed throughout the ship.
In 2012, QM2 completed her first circumnavigation of Australia. Starting in Sydney, the ship sailed to Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Bali, Fremantle (Perth), Adelaide and Melbourne, before returning to Sydney. The voyage sold out within hours of going on sale. The success of the ship’s Australian voyage prompted a circumnavigation of New Zealand in 2013, and a further Australian voyage in 2014.
In 2013, QM2 completed her 200th transatlantic crossing. She also made headlines in September when she was called to the aid of Mylene Paquette, who was attempting to become the first North American to row the Atlantic solo. Ms Paquette had been hit by the remnants of Atlantic Storm Humberto, and required assistance. QM2’s Captain Oprey said, “We are happy to have given assistance to Mylene and help her recover from the damage inflicted by the storm. We wish her the very best of luck with her solo Atlantic rowing adventure.” QM2’s chef also supplied her with various provisions including English tea and pastries.
2014 marked the tenth anniversary of QM2 and to celebrate a series of special events were arranged. This culminated with the meeting of the three Cunard Queens in May. All three liners met both in Lisbon as well as Southampton for an impressive series of rendezvous; while in 2015 QM2 will meet Queen Victoria in Sydney, Australia to kick off the Cunard 175 celebrations.
In 2016, the Queen Mary 2 undertook the most extensive and significant refit in her career thus far. Dubbed QM2 Remastered, the work was undertaken at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany.
It involved re-creating many of QM2’s public areas. Changes included rebuilding the Kings Court into a more usable space; re-designing the Winter Garden and re-naming it Carinthia Lounge; replacing Todd English with the popular Cunard Verandah Restaurant; the installation of a Godiva Chocolate Cafe in Sir Samuels; re-designing every cabin aboard as well as the installation of new single-cabins.